common mistakes in concept dev

In more than 35 years of developing ideas with clients, we have seen a lot of poorly-written concepts. Fortunately, there are easy ways to fix the mistakes in concept development

One of the most common mistakes in concept writing is using a feature or description of the product as the benefit. For example, if I said, "I get a robot that does tasks for me," that's a description of the product—it's not the benefit. 

In order to get to the benefit, ask yourself, "What's the result of that?” or, “What does that enable?" The answer will likely be the benefit. "I get time to do the things I enjoy," is a possible functional benefit, and the Reason To Believe is, "The robot is programmed to do a variety of tasks around the home or office."

Another common mistake in concept writing is to frame the idea in company or industry language, rather than consumer language. For example, we often see Reasons To Believe written something like this: "The robot leverages its dynamic logistics system to acquire a database of your preferences." What?  

In this example, it's obvious that a consumer wouldn't speak this way. But once you start talking about your own product, brand, or industry, it's amazingly easy to fall into the trap of using industry-specific language due to the Curse of KnowledgeIt’s important to carefully review concepts and scrub them of all industry speak, because consumers won’t understand it. Instead, reduce all the language and sentence structure to about the fifth grade level. "The robot learns and remembers how you want things done," is much easier to understand, and consequently much more appealing to consumers.

Similarly, consumers don’t respond well to references to the company or product as “we” or “us.” For example, we often see benefits like this: “We do all the work for you.” This kind of language causes the concept to perform more poorly than it otherwise might. Concepts should be revised to focus on the consumer, and not refer to “you” or your company at all.

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We find that following these guidelines results in concepts that are accessible to consumers, leading to useful feedback in testing, easier revisions and a smoother concept and product development process overall. 


Ideas To Go is an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.

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Katie Franke

Katie Franke is a Marketing Communications Specialist and Concept Writer at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.